Mississippi city pursues multi-million-dollar grant for medical initiative

Published 5:37 am Friday, May 3, 2024

City of Natchez officials are hiring a grant writer from Baton Rouge to go after a grant that could fund anywhere between $2 million and $5 million to help improve medical services in Natchez.

The Public Works and Economic Adjustment Assistance program sponsored by the U.S. Economic Development Administration provides a wide range of technical, planning, and public works and infrastructure assistance in regions experiencing adverse economic changes that may occur suddenly or over time.

“This deals with all sorts of challenges that small communities are facing including declining medical services,” Mayor Dan Gibson said during a special called meeting on Thursday at the Natchez City Hall conference room.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

“We have been talking to Crystal Matthews, who is a consultant out of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, who just a year ago successfully wrote our grant through the Delta Regional Authority for our workforce development program.”

Gibson asked the alderman to again hire Matthews, a consultant and grant writer of Elite Program Specialists LLC, for a fee of $6,000.

She would then pursue the millions of dollars available from the EAA program for the “MED Natchez initiative,” which Gibson said will “enhance the attractiveness of the Natchez region as a place to live and work for medical professionals and related industries.”

As an example, Gibson said the grant could be used for enhancing the medical education programs offered locally at the college and high school levels and for sign-on bonuses to encourage professionals to work here. The funds require a 20 percent match, which Gibson said could be “strategically met” with in-kind contributions.

While the grant has no deadline, Gibson said time is of the essence because it is a competitive program and the funds are limited and will run out.

The motion to hire Matthews was made by Ward 1 Alderwoman Valencia Hall and was seconded by Ward 6 Alderman Curtis Moroney and passed by a vote of 4-1.

Ward 2 Alderman Billie Joe Frazier voted nay, stating for the record, “I am not against it. I am against hiring another grant writer when we have grant writers on staff.”

Gibson said Matthews came recommended years ago when gathering information on how to build the medical community in Natchez and specializes in medical grants.

Moroney said, “I absolutely agree with Billy Joe in that we need to use our existing city resources when we can. And I think we do a pretty good job with that. But I think this is probably a case where it would behoove us to bring in some outside resources. This is a big, big thing that we really need. And you know, I don’t want to send in the wrong person to bat during a crucial at bat. I want to give ourselves the absolute best chance of getting a significant amount of money here.”

In other matters, the board accepted a bid from Wildstone Construction based in Flora for work on Commerce Street sidewalk and ADA improvements, new lighting improvements and new electric pedestals that are funded by a Mississippi Department of Transportation grant.

Gibson said a special meeting was needed to approve the bid in a timely manner so that it can further be approved by MDOT before the project grant expires.

Wildstone Construction submitted the lowest of two bids received on the project at $462,943.

The second bid from Tru-Mac LLC was $548,059.

The motions to accept Wildstone Construction’s bid and allow Gibson to sign any documents applicable to the program were made and seconded by Moroney and Hall and passed by a vote of 5-0.

No other actions were taken during Thursday’s meeting.